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Liquid Utility

The maxim that “water is life” has never had more serious implications—reaching back into history, down into spongy aquifers, and up into kitchen sinks. Three in ten people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water, and six in ten lack access to adequate sanitation facilities. Today’s strained water systems are one of the public goods that have been most resistant to total capture by private capital. But this capture—coming largely in the form of convoluted financial maneuvering and hybrid management schemes—is nevertheless well underway. In urban areas especially, infrastructural services blur the nominally sovereign borders between public works and corporate monopoly. If there is a right to water, who holds the rights to the pipes?

Nick Axel
Nikolaus Hirsch
Reinhold Martin
Jacob R. Moore
Jordan Steingard

Liquid Utility is a collaboration between e-flux Architecture and the Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture at Columbia University as part of their project "Power: Infrastructure in America."

Andrea Muehlebach
Toward a Social Infrastructure
Adriana Garriga-López
Agua Dulce
Andrea Ballestero
Living with Aquifers
Jacinta Ruru
Who are your waters?
Marcela Olivera
Working with the Commons
Catherine Coleman Flowers
Septic Injustice
Daniel Fernández Pascual and Alon Schwabe
What is Above is What is Below
Elizabeth A. Povinelli
The Urban Intensions of Geontopower
Nick Axel, Nikolaus Hirsch, Reinhold Martin, Jacob R. Moore, and Jordan Steingard
Anthony Acciavatti

Anthony Acciavatti is a historian of science and technology, a cartographer, and an architect. He is a principal of Somatic Collaborative in New York. The recipient of a Mellon Fellowship from Princeton University in 2017, he is currently working on the connections between the sciences and design in Asia and the Americas.

Nikhil Anand

Nikhil Anand is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. His research focuses on the political ecology of cities, read through the different lives of water. His first book, Hydraulic City (Duke University Press, 2017), focuses on the everyday ways in which cities and citizens are made through the everyday management of water infrastructure in Mumbai.  

Andrea Ballestero

Andrea Ballestero is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Rice University, where she also runs the Ethnography Studio. Her work looks at the unexpected ethical and technical entanglements through which experts understand water in Latin America.

Maia Brown

Maia Brown is a Yiddish musician and educator in Seattle, Washington with a background in history and fine art. An organizer in communities combining research, direct action, art, education, and celebration in the work of getting free, Maia has lived in South Africa, the North of Ireland, and Palestine tracing the global historical and contemporary connections of power, profit, and resistance. Maia is the founder of Stop Veolia Seattle.

Daniel Fernández Pascual

Daniel Fernández Pascual & Alon Schwabe are a London-based duo of spatial practitioners. As Cooking Sections, they explore the systems that organize the world through food. Using installation, performance and mapping, their research-based practice operates within the overlapping boundaries between visual arts, architecture and geopolitics.

Catherine Coleman Flowers

Catherine Coleman Flowers is a Senior Fellow for Environmental Justice and Civic Engagement at the Center for Earth Ethics, founder of the Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise Community Development Corporation (ACRE), and the Rural Development Manager for the Equal Justice Initiative serving the citizens of Lowndes County, Alabama.

Adriana Garriga-López

Adriana Garriga-López is an anthropologist and multidisciplinary artist born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She is currently chair of and Associate Professor in the Anthropology and Sociology Department at Kalamazoo College, and Associate Faculty of the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research.

Shea Howell

Shea Howell is a founding member and board member of the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership, where she focuses on visionary organizing rooted in place and history. She is a professor of political communication at Oakland University.

Andrea Muehlebach

Andrea Muehlebach is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Toronto. She is interested in the politics and ethics of economic life and is currently exploring these themes through an ethnography of the politics of water privatization, financialization, and re-municipalization in austerity-ridden Europe. Her book-in-progress is called A Vital Frontier: Water Insurgencies in Europe.

Marcela Olivera

Marcela Olivera is a water commons organizer based in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Since 2004 she has been helping to develop and consolidate an inter-American citizens’ network on water justice named Red VIDA. She is also member of the Platform for Public and Community Partnerships of The Americas (PAPC), an organization that promotes knowledge exchange among water utilities based on solidarity and horizontal cooperation.

Elizabeth A. Povinelli

Elizabeth A. Povinelli is Franz Boas Professor of Anthropology and Gender Studies at Columbia University. Her books include Geontologies: A Requiem to Late Liberalism (2016), Economies of Abandonment: Social Belonging andEndurance in Late Liberalism (2011), and The Cunning of Recognition: Indigenous Alterities and the Making of Australian Multiculturalism (2002). She is also a founding member of the Karrabing Film Collective.

Malini Ranganathan

Malini Ranganathan is Assistant Professor in the School of International Service at American University in Washington DC. She is a critical geographer and political ecologist with a broad interest in urban environmental justice who uses history, ethnography, and social theory to study the politics and struggles surrounding urban water infrastructure and property regimes in both India and the US.

Alexander Robinson

Alexander Robinson is a landscape architect, researcher, and scholar. He is an Assistant Professor in the USC Landscape Architecture & Urbanism program, an Affiliate of both the Spatial Sciences Institute and Wrigley Institute of Environmental Studies, and principal of the Office of Outdoor Research/LMLab in Los Angeles, California.

Jacinta Ruru

Jacinta Ruru is a professor of law at the University of Otago and Co-Director of Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga, New Zealand’s Māori Centre of Research Excellence, New Zealand.

Alon Schwabe

Daniel Fernández Pascual & Alon Schwabe are a London-based duo of spatial practitioners. As Cooking Sections, they explore the systems that organize the world through food. Using installation, performance and mapping, their research-based practice operates within the overlapping boundaries between visual arts, architecture and geopolitics.

Liquid Utility 11–13 1–10 Contributors